The Caribbean Import Market for Beef

Overview

Major suppliers of fresh and frozen cuts of beef to the Caribbean basin include the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Smaller suppliers include South America (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay), the Netherlands and Ireland.

Because Caribbean import statistics are often unreliable or unavailable, export statistics from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and the EU were analyzed to estimate approximate market sizes (see Table 1). Exports to the Caribbean from these suppliers totaled over $50 million in 1997. The EU accounted for 50 percent of the total, although 95 percent of European exports to the region were destined for Guadeloupe or Martinique. The US accounted for 30 percent of the total Caribbean imports by these five suppliers and New Zealand and Australia both accounted for 9 percent. Argentina’s share of the import market for fresh and frozen beef came to 2 percent, with most of this destined for Aruba. It should be noted that Argentina supplies the Caribbean with larger quantities of processed beef, with exports in 1997 of $2.7 million versus $1.2 million of fresh and frozen beef cuts over the same year.

Excluding Guadeloupe and Martinique, Bermuda is the largest import market in the Caribbean, with $5.7 million purchased in 1997 from four of the five suppliers surveyed. Other major markets include Trinidad ($4.7 million), the Bahamas ($3.0 million), the Aruba ($2.6 million), the Netherlands Antilles ($2.3 million), Barbados ($2.2 million), the Cayman Islands ($1.8 million), and Jamaica ($1.5 million).

In the non-French markets, US beef is relatively expensive and caters primarily to middle and higher end retailers and the tourist sector. Beef from Australia and New Zealand, relatively cheaper in price, serves the middle-lower end market.

Table 2 shows that the most widely purchased variety of US beef is frozen boneless, with 1997 Caribbean imports from the US worth $7.7 million and accounting for 52 percent of total US exports to the region. Other beef import categories include: fresh boneless beef (33 percent of US exports by value), frozen bone-in beef (11 percent), and fresh bone-in beef (4 percent). US exports to the region have been relatively stagnant over the period 1994-1997 (see Table 3).

Table 1. Exports of Fresh and Frozen Beef to the Caribbean from Major Suppliers, 1997

(value in US$ 000s)

Importing Country

EU

US

NZ

Australia

Argentina

Total

Martinique*

14,169

18

5

   

14,192

Guadeloupe*

11,009

9

7

   

11,025

Bermuda

177

4,705

728

 

69

5,679

Trinidad & Tobago

15

346

2,314

1,985

 

4,660

Bahamas

625

1,847

28

477

 

2,977

Aruba

109

1,404

   

1,117

2,630

Netherlands Antilles

143

1,532

4

664

 

2,343

Barbados

 

880

783

506

 

2,169

Cayman Islands

 

1,783

     

1,783

Jamaica

 

768

665

107

 

1,540

St Lucia

 

408

115

475

 

998

Haiti

67

688

     

755

Dominican Republic

 

464

     

464

Antigua & Barbuda

 

224

45

135

 

404

St Vincent/Grenadines

75

114

71

36

 

296

British Virgin Islands

 

120

     

120

St Kitts & Nevis

 

84

     

84

Dominica

 

4

 

79

 

83

Grenada

 

8

8

67

 

83

Turks & Caicos

 

60

     

60

Anguilla

10

       

10

Exports by Supplier

26,399

15,466

4,773

4,533

1,186

52,357

Import Market Share

50%

30%

9%

9%

2%

 

Source: Official Trade Statistics of the U.S, EU, Canada

*1996 figures

 

Table 2. US Beef Exports to the Caribbean by Variety, 1997

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Importing Country

Fresh

bone-in

Fresh

Boneless

Frozen

bone-in

Frozen

boneless

Antigua

4

 

43

165

Aruba

29

268

146

832

Bahamas

50

129

313

1,350

Barbados

35

77

133

635

Bermuda

9

2,628

149

1,632

BVI

   

18

103

Cayman Islands

16

27

348

1,256

Dominica

     

4

Dominican Republic

161

60

38

157

Grenada

     

8

Guadeloupe

54

111

9

 

Haiti

5

6

11

633

Jamaica

40

307

189

220

Martinique

   

18

 

Netherlands Antilles

44

950

28

407

St Kitts & Nevis

 

19

44

20

St Lucia

79

152

94

83

St Vincent

   

6

108

Trinidad & Tobago

50

148

16

90

Turks & Caicos

71

 

26

35

Total

646

4,884

1,622

7,740

Source: US Census

 

Table 3. Selected US Beef Exports to the Caribbean, 1994-97

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Variety

1997

1996

1995

1994

Fresh, bone-in

646

907

1,345

1,430

Fresh, boneless

4,884

4,153

5,189

5,285

Frozen, bone-in

1,621

3,077

1,809

1,683

Frozen, boneless

7,740

7,122

7,861

7,134

Total

14,892

15,259

16,204

15,533

 

The most popular cut among retail customers is reported to be sirloin strip, followed by tenderloin, T-bone steak, flank and top ground. While poultry products are the traditional meal at local family dinners, importers note continuing demand for beef, especially from the HRI sector. There is also reported to be an interest in substitute products like seafood by hotels and restaurants wishing to offer tourists healthier menu options.

Import requirements for beef in many countries follow food safety regulations in the US. Although some countries perform inspection on imported beef, US food safety standards are generally recognized and will expedite customs clearance. Although labeling specifications are not required in some countries, the popularity of US beef, such as Black Angus sirloin, warrants the use of US grades and industry specifications.

 

 

Current Suppliers. Curaçao sources beef from a wide variety of suppliers. According to official statistics, the total value of Curaçao’s imports of beef was US $10.6 million in 1997 (see Table 4). The US was the largest supplier in 1997 with a 28 percent import market share (by value), followed by the Netherlands (20 percent), Argentina (11 percent), Australia (7 percent), Canada (6 percent), Brazil (3 percent), and Uruguay (2 percent).

Table 4: Curaçao Beef Imports, 1997

Supplier

Value

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Share

Volume

(MTs)

Share

United States

2,985

28%

994

29%

Netherlands

2,140

20%

661

19%

Argentina

1,166

11%

367

11%

Australia

750

7%

139

4%

Canada

664

6%

204

6%

Brazil

274

3%

87

3%

Uruguay

183

2%

56

2%

Belgium

88

1%

26

1%

Other

2,319

22%

858

25%

Total

10,569

 

3,392

 

Note: Exchange rate (Ant G 1.79 = US$ 1.00)

 

Distribution and Sales Channels. Curaçao’s major container port is St. Annabaai. The major food wholesalers are Consales, J.P. Maal, Posner’s Agencies, and C. Winkel and Zomen. The five main supermarkets are Centrum (2 stores), Esperamos, Las Vegas, Mangusa (2 stores), and Pita (2 stores). Though these supermarkets account for an estimated 50 percent of retail food sales, there are over 100 small stores or "mini-markets" located throughout the island for convenience purchases.

 

Table 5: Selected Beef Products Found at Curaçao Supermarkets

Variety

Origin

Price/kg

(Ant G)

Price/kg

(US$)

Club

South America

14.00

8.00

Flank

Argentina

11.90

6.78

Flank

South America

8.60

4.90

Lean ground

South America

12.00-15.40

6.84

Lean ground

Colombia

7.70

4.39

Loin rib

South America

10.00-14.00

5.70-7.98

Minced

Argentina

11.96

6.81

NY strip

Argentina

11.98

6.82

NY strip

South America

15.50

8.86

Rump

South America

15.20

8.68

Sirloin

Colombia

16.25

9.26

Stew beef

Argentina

10.80

6.16

Stew beef

Colombia

11.70

6.67

Tenderloin

South America

15.80

9.02

Source: On-site supermarket surveys, December 1998

Note: Exchange rate (Ant G 1.75 = US$ 1.00)

Consumer Preferences. US and European beef are the preferred varieties of Curaçao’s wealthy tourists, as most imports from these suppliers are brought in to service hotels and restaurants. Local taste preferences, on the other hand, tend to favor beef from South America (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay) which is imported both fresh and frozen. As a result, South American beef is more commonly offered at the retail level. According to retailers, this is due more to the difference in taste than pricing. Retailers who offered US varieties found that customers did not respond favorably enough to warrant carrying it on a regular basis.

Import Requirements. In Curaçao, import permits for beef are required due to food safety concerns, and all beef products are inspected upon arrival at Customs. The official policy is that beef products must originate from abattoirs approved by the governments of the Netherlands or the Netherlands Antilles. Beef imports meeting US food safety requirements have no problem gaining entry.

Tariffs and duties. Curaçao levies two types of import duties: a standard tariff against the c.i.f. value of a product, and an "economic levy" which applies to locally-produced goods. At present, Curaçao does not levy any tariffs or economic levies against imports of beef.

 

 

Current Suppliers. Barbados produces little beef of its own and places no import restrictions on the importation of beef (see Table 6). As a result, there is an import market for beef valued at around US$2.8 million in 1997. In terms of volume, Ireland was the largest supplier in 1997 with an import market share of 38 percent, followed by New Zealand (25 percent), the US (22 percent), the UK (9 percent), and Australia (6 percent). Because of the relatively higher price of US beef, the US is the largest supplier by value. Table 7 provides a breakdown of beef imports by type.

Table 6: Barbados Imports of Beef, 1997

Supplier

Value

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Share

Volume

(MTs)

Share

United States

1,228

44%

219

22%

Ireland

688

25%

380

38%

New Zealand

530

19%

246

25%

Australia

185

7%

62

6%

United Kingdom

148

5%

90

9%

Total

2,779

 

997

 
 

 

Table 7: Barbados Beef Imports by Variety, 1997 (f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Importing Country

Fresh

Bone-in

Fresh

boneless

Frozen

bone-in

Frozen

boneless

Total by

supplier

US

 

43

337

848

1228

Ireland

 

8

57

623

688

New Zealand

9

38

58

425

530

Australia

 

32

 

152

184

UK

     

148

148

Canada

 

.2

 

.5

0.7

Total by variety

9

122

453

2,196

2780

 

The US is predominant in higher end cuts, the majority of which serves the hotel and restaurant sector. Most New Zealand and Australian beef, on the other hand, is distributed at the retail level where their cheaper prices make them popular with residents.

Distribution and Sales Channels. Barbados’ main harbor is the Port of Bridgetown, which has full cargo handling capability. Grantley Adams International is the main airport.

The main food wholesalers in Barbados are Goddard, A.S. Bryden and Sons, M.E.R. Bourne and Co., T. Geddes Grant, Frank B. Armstrong, Spring Garden Foods, and Continental. There are roughly twenty other wholesalers of smaller size in Barbados, but the above-mentioned supply an estimated 70 percent of the retail market. Most wholesalers operate as exclusive distributors and have non-competition agreements that bar other wholesalers from carrying the same brands. However, some importers are now bringing in branded products from Florida, forcing local wholesalers to compete aggressively on price.

Supermarkets account for an estimated 75 percent of retail food sales in Barbados, with the remainder made up by small grocery store, convenience stores, covered markets, and street stalls. There are roughly 20 supermarkets on the island. Super Centre owns a chain of four stores and Plantations Trading owns two. The largest supermarket on the island, Julie’N, imports directly and carried a wider selection of products than the other stores.

Table 8 shows various beef products found at local supermarkets during a December 1998 survey.

Table 8: Selected Beef Products Found at Barbados Supermarkets

Variety

Origin

Price/kg

(Barbados $)

Price

(US$)

Bottom roundsteak, fresh

Barbados

14.51

7.21

Cube steak, frozen

New Zealand

24.69

12.28

Ground beef, frozen

Barbados

14.35

7.13

Ribeye/roundsteak, fresh

Barbados

15.48

7.70

Sirloin steak, fresh

Barbados

14.73

7.32

Stew beef, fresh

Barbados

11.25

5.59

Stew beef, frozen

New Zealand

9.79

4.87

Striploin, fresh

Barbados

15.50

7.71

Veal, frozen

New Zealand

16.00

7.96

Source: On-site supermarket surveys, December1998

Note: Exchange Rate (US$ 1.00 = Barbados $ 2.0113)

Consumer Preferences. In Barbados, beef is popular with both high-and low-end buyers, and retailers offer a variety of cuts including rib eye, sirloin, tenderloin, choice and ground chuck. One retailer reported that frozen beef, which he began offering eight years ago, now comprises 50 percent of his store’s beef sales. A higher end retailer noted a customer preference for fresh beef over frozen, due to a perception that beef sold chilled retains superior flavor.

While beef is holding its own against substitutes like fish and poultry, retailers point out that whole chickens are the dinner meal of choice in Barbados. One importer serving the HRI sector reported that hotels have been requesting more seafood products such as shrimp. As mentioned, customers at the retail level purchase New Zealand beef as an affordable alternative to more expensive US products.

Import Regulations. There are no restrictions on imports of fresh or frozen beef and it is not necessary for importers to obtain a permit. There is presently a ban on imports of beef from the United Kingdom and South America.

Tariffs and Duties. Import duties for beef products entering Barbados therefore consist of three separate charges:

Standard tariff rate of 30 percent on all beef products;

1 percent environmental levy (on all imported goods);

15 percent Value Added Tax applied to the value of the good as recorded on the commercial invoice and the sum of the first two charges.

 

 

Current Suppliers. The Bahamas is heavily dependent on imports for its supply of beef, with only limited domestic livestock production. Imports consist mainly of frozen and fresh boneless cuts from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. Although imports from New Zealand are not recorded in official statistics, these are most likely acquired through transhipment through Miami.

According to official Bahamian statistics, imports totaled $14.3 million in 1997 – significantly higher than the roughly $2.5 million estimated in Table 9 (based on official export statistics of the EU, Canada, and the US). This discrepancy is due to transshipments of non-US beef through the US – US statistical sources do not record these shipments as US export, but the Bahamas does record them as US product. Therefore, US imports recorded in Table 3 also include product from other countries (most notably New Zealand).

 

 

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Supplier

Total

Frozen Beef

Fresh Beef

United States

1,847

1,668

179

EU

625

507

118

Canada

44

44

 

Total

2,516

2,219

296,983

Source: Official statistics of the US, EU and Canada

 

Table 10: Bahamas Beef Imports, 1997

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Product

Group

Product

Suppliers

Value

Fresh

Carcasses and half-carcasses

US

29

 

Other cuts, bone-in

US, Canada

889

 

Boneless cuts

US

4,782

 

5,700

Frozen

Carcasses and half-carcasses

US

72

 

Other cuts, bone-in

US, UK, Canada

3,544

 

Boneless cuts

US, UK, Canada, Australia

5,025

 

8,641

 

14,341

Source: Bahamas Department of Statistics

Distribution and Sales Channels. Nassau is the largest port in the Bahamas and handles most of the commercial traffic, including food imports. Freeport is currently being expanded to accommodate container vessels. The Bahamas also has five international airports, with the two largest at Nassau and Freeport.

It is estimated that there are less than twenty food wholesalers in the Bahamas, including Asa H. Pritchard, Jagar, D’Albenas, Island Seafood and Nassau Hotel and Restaurant Supply. The Grand Bahamas Food Company and the Thompson Trading Company are two medium-sized wholesalers based in Freeport. The wholesale business is reported to be increasingly competitive as many grocery stores, including warehouse-type discount outlets, are importing direct from manufacturers or through Miami-based wholesalers.

There are over 200 grocery stores in the Bahamas, most of which are small. The three major grocery store chains are City Markets (owned by US-based Winn Dixie), Super Value, and John Chea and Sons. There is also Solomon’s and CostRite, which are similar to Sam’s Club in the US. Both operate both as a traditional wholesaler and as a retailer by selling directly to the public out from their warehouses.

Selected Prices. Beef products found at local supermarkets during a December 1998 survey included ground beef (US$1.89/lb), stew beef ($2.99/lb), and sirloin strips ($7.89/lb).

Consumer Preferences. Most beef is offered by retailers pre-cut and pre-packaged. Popular cuts include: prime rib, Porterhouse, tenderloin, sirloin, chuck, and strip loin. As with the other countries profiled, much of the US beef goes to the hotel and tourism sector while the local retail market is served by providing cheaper cuts from New Zealand and Australia.

Import Regulations. Import permits are not required for beef products. Food safety rules in the Bahamas generally follow US guidelines, and products bearing US food safety certification have no problem clearing Customs.

Tariffs and Duties. The Bahamas do not levy tariffs against imports of beef. However, all imported food products are assessed a stamp tax of 2 percent of the CIF value of the product.

 

 

 

Current Suppliers. As of 1994, Bermuda Customs authorities no longer disaggregate meat imports. Table 11 estimates import market size by analyzing export statistics from what are considered to be Bermuda’s three largest suppliers; the US, New Zealand, and the European Union. Total import market size is estimated to exceed $5.6 million, with the US supplying $4.7 million and followed by New Zealand ($0.7 million) and the EU ($0.2 million).

According to US export statistics, most US exports are comprised of fresh and frozen boneless cuts (see Table 12). Despite what appears to be a decrease in overall supply of US chilled beef, however, buyers at the retail level report that consumers have shown a growing preference for fresh beef of US origin, where Bermuda previously imported the majority of its beef frozen from New Zealand. One importer explained that this is due to a growing sophistication in the beef market over the past decade, though, as with other markets, New Zealand beef still caters to lower end retail buyers.

Table 11: Bermuda Imports of Beef, 1997

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Supplier

Total

Frozen Beef

Fresh Beef

United States

4,705

1,818

2,887

EU

177

122

54

New Zealand

728

728

 

Total

5,609

2,668

2,941

Source: Official statistics of the US, EU and OECD

 

Table 12: US Beef Exports to Bermuda by Variety, 1994-97

(f.o.b. in US$ 000s)

Variety

1997

1996

1995

1994

Fresh, bone-in

9

102

158

298

Fresh, boneless

2,628

2,962

3,227

3,258

Frozen, bone-in

149

747

423

594

Frozen, boneless

1,632

1,477

1,673

1,548

Total

4,419

5,288

5,481

5,698

Source: US Census

Distribution and Sales Channels. There is one port at Hamilton that serves all ocean freight with shipments arriving once or twice a week. Bermuda's international airport makes air freight available but expensive (about $0.40/lb and expected to increase to as much as $.80-96/lb due to future cutbacks in airline service). It is hoped that increased coordination among shippers will make ocean freight more flexible. For example, weekly food shipments from Salem and Elizabeth, New Jersey, are expected to begin arriving on different days of the week instead of the same day; in effect, wholesalers will be able to rely on two shipments per week instead of one.

Bermuda's supermarkets include The Marketplace, Arnold's, Lindo's Family Foods, The Supermart, Garden Market, Harrington Hundreds and White's. While a few independent importers operate on the island, most retailers are supplied by a handful of importer/distributors including Butterfield Vallis, BGA Group, A.C.Brewer Distributors, and Viking Food Ltd. In addition to the retail sector, these groups also handle the majority of food distribution for hotels, restaurants and institutional food buyers.

 

Selcted Prices. Beef products found at local supermarkets during a December 1998 survey included top sirloin, which sold for $6.50/lb; boneless sirloin strips, (US$3.99-$5.99/lb); sirloin tips ($3.00/lb), top ground beef from New Zealand ($2.99/lb), and New Zealand roast ($1.99/lb).

Consumer Preferences. Imports of fresh beef have grown in recent years due to changing consumer preferences, with 60 percent of Bermuda’s beef imports now brought in fresh. This preference for fresh was noted by an importer who claimed his fresh to frozen beef sales ratio was 3:1. The preferred variety is Certified Angus Beef, with the most popular cuts being sirloin strip and tenderloin strip. In addition to offering single-strip packs, supermarkets also sell frozen cuts in packages of 4-6 strips.

Import Requirements. All meat imported into Bermuda must conform to the pure food and drug requirements of the country of origin. Food safety rules in Bermuda generally follow US guidelines, and products bearing US food safety certification typically have no problem clearing customs. The government does not impose any specific labeling requirements for imports of packaged beef.

Tariffs and Duties. In Bermuda, beef products are subjected to a 5 percent tariff. In addition, all imported goods are also assessed a "wharfage tax," which includes an additional charge of 1.01 percent of value for use of the dock or airport of entry. There are no VAT or stamp taxes for goods imported to Bermuda.